Police arrested 20 people after an Occupy Atlanta protest rally in a city park spilled onto the streets and officers converged on them on motorcycles, riding horseback and in riot gear. (Nov. 6) (The Associated Press)
The Occupy movement claims public space in order to exercise the right of peaceable assembly. Two Occupy Atlanta participants volunteered to stay in Troy Davis/Woodruff Park in order to symbolically demonstrate that right, while the rest of the Occupy participants cleared out of the park and began a march around it.
A large Atlanta police force including motorcycles, mounted police, officers on foot, a SWAT team in riot gear and a helicopter moved in aggressively and faced off with the marchers. Peace was maintained until a policeman on a motorcycle accelerated into a demonstrator. Several people were arrested including three journalists.
Occupy Atlanta protesters in court Sunday
By Helena Oliviero and Christopher Quinn -The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Nineteen of 20 Occupy Atlanta protesters arrested Saturday night were at a bond hearing in municipal court Sunday morning.
Police say Wojcik-Tremblay knocked a police officer off his motorcycle, but protesters tell a different story.
Lauren Reynolds, a member of Occupy’s jail support committee, said Sunday that marchers were crowded on Peachtree Street when a line of police on motorcycles began to rev their engines to disperse the crowd. The Occupy Atlanta website says the police officer then “accelerated into a demonstrator.”
The march was a surprise move by the protesters. Nearly 150 went to Woodruff Park Saturday night, with many saying they intended to be arrested by refusing to leave the park when it closed at 11 p.m. But shortly after 11, the group began emptying out of the park and marching on Peachtree, which borders the west side of the small park.
Just before midnight, waves of Atlanta police began moving south down Peachtree, forcing the marchers back. The first rank of police was simply in uniform and carried plastic handcuffs. They were backed by officers in riot gear — face plates, body armor and long nightsticks — and mounted police.
A knot of protesters chanted “Shame! Shame! Shame!” as the police advanced.
The Occupy Atlanta protest began Oct. 7 with a few people and grew into a tent-city occupation of Woodruff Park that continued for nearly three weeks. The group lists joblessness, student debt, foreclosures , two wars, corporate greed and a lack of political representation for the middle class among its concerns.
The mayor’s office said Thursday that the first occupation of the park cost city taxpayers more than $451,000, most of it in police overtime.
Protesters at the Sunday bond hearing said they would return to Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta Sunday evening.